By Chase Berenson
The beginning of January is a time when people look to the future and begin to plan out what they want to accomplish in the new year. As we all look forward to 2016, let’s take a moment to appreciate a few of the unique opportunities to enjoy the outdoor environment we as Baton Rougeans have surrounding us.
Blackwater Conservation Area
BREC’s Blackwater Conservation Area is located in North Baton Rouge and is an excellent spot to check out in the heat of summer when most people are sheltering indoors to avoid the sun and the humidity. Blackwater features a couple miles of trails that wind through the woods, and there is even a lake for fishing.
However, Blackwater’s main attraction in the summertime is its beach along the Amite River. After a three-quarter mile hike in, you’ll be rewarded by a shady beach alongside a very cold river.
It’s the perfect recipe for getting outside, earning your sweat and then cooling off in the water and relaxing on the sand under the branches of the forest canopy.
Waddill Wildlife Refuge
Typically, state-run wildlife refuges are only out in remote areas of Louisiana, and city parks are left to municipal organizations such as BREC. The Waddill Wildlife Refuge is the exception to that rule, and is located within the city of Baton Rouge.
Waddill features miles and miles of hiking trails, and allows visitors access to forests, swamps, and riverbanks. Waddill also has trails for archery practice, with targets spread throughout the woods, and even features a shooting range for practicing with firearms.
Anyone who is looking for a more natural and less manicured taste of the outdoors, but who doesn’t want to travel outside the city, should definitely consider visiting the Waddill Wildlife Refuge.
SCUBA Dive New Orleans
SCUBA divers often think they have to leave Louisiana to find unique dive spots, but that’s not always the case.
Located in the heart of New Orleans, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas allows divers to hop into the tank and experience life on the other side of the glass.
The primary attraction is, of course, being underwater and swimming alongside the high concentrations of rays and fish, however there are other unique perks of aquarium diving.
One of the highlights of the experience is interacting with other aquarium visitors, who were surprised to see people swimming in the tank. Everyone smiles when a diver waves to them, and kids’ eyes genuinely light up when they try to “high-five” you on the glass. All divers should take the chance to go aquarium diving at least once in their diving career.
Clark Creek Natural Area
The Clark Creek Natural Area may be the most famous outdoor escape from Baton Rouge, even though it’s technically across the state line in Mississippi.
Despite Baton Rouge’s flat topography, a short drive north out of the city grants access to hills and elevation.
It’s like a whole different world!
Clark Creek is a small river that runs through these Tunica Hills, and as the creek cascades through the hills it creates seven different waterfalls waiting to be explored.
Clark Creek is another excellent heat-of-the-summer destination, as the miles of trails will make you work up a sweat that you can wash away by standing in one of nature’s showers.
Holly Beach is in the far southwestern corner of Louisiana, and is one of Louisiana’s three Gulf beaches. What differentiates the Cajun Riviera from the other two beaches is that there is no development whatsoever on the beach; instead there are thirty miles of sand waiting to be explored.
Once you reach Holly Beach, you can get off the road and drive to the water’s edge since this is the only beach in Louisiana that allows beach driving. Additionally, once you’ve found your favorite spot in the sand, you can set your tent up right next to your vehicle and get ready to spend the night because beach camping is allowed on Holly Beach.
Just remember, there are no amenities and no developments on the beach. Don’t forget to bring all your supplies from home or pick them up in Lafayette on your way to the water!
2016 will bring a new year’s worth of opportunity and excitement, so don’t forget to use some of these three hundred and sixty-six days to get outdoors!